“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
~1 Corinthians 9:24-27
This passage may sound very familiar. It’s a popular one with a powerful and compelling message. Paul often uses word pictures to better illustrate his points and connect with his readers. The image of an athlete striving for a prize is one that Paul used in other letters as well and would have resonated with the Corinthians since athletics and sports were a big part of their culture.
Surrendering rights requires personal sacrifice. It means dying to self and what we might feel is due us and thinking of others first. It will be uncomfortable at times and will push us outside our comfort zones. But why would we do this? Why go to the effort and voluntarily surrender our rights when God has given us complete freedom in Christ? To win the lost.
Freedom and rights. These are and have been hot topics in America for centuries. In fact, the quest for freedom and expression of rights was the motivation behind America’s war for independence. Since that time, laws and rulings have been made that protect and define personal, professional, civil, and religious rights. While rights and freedoms are not bad and at times are worthy of defending and protecting, what does the Bible say about how we are to use our rights?
1 Corinthians 8 focuses on a point of conflict within the Corinthian church that at first glance may seem to have no relevance to us. However, on close examination and with proper application, the lessons Paul teaches in this chapter are more relevant to us than ever before.
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